Ubuntu Linux followup

Graham commented, after I mentioned I had installed Ubuntu Linux on my home computer: “Ooh, do let us know how you get on.”

I’m getting on quite well, and I think it is the best Linux distribution for home and church office desktops I’ve seen to date. But it isn’t for most people yet.

The biggest problem is in the installation. The way I was weaned off Windows isn’t all that unusual. I had a big, slightly unwieldy installation of Mandrake (now Mandriva) Linux dual booted on my machine with Windows ME. Two operating systems on one drive. Got it? IN time, it was clear the Linux distribution had all I needed, even if I did have to twiddle with it. The freedom and free software was worth the trouble.

By the time I was ready to move to the Debian-based Mepis Linux distribution — with its superior software packaging — I didn’t need Windows, and so wiped it from my hard drive. Which is all well and good since I really liked Mepis, and Debian-based Ubuntu is even better. Better usability. More logical controls. Superior community support. Terrible installation. I was going to go halves with Mepis and Ubuntu, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of how Ubuntu sets up disk divisions. And that is probably a deal-breaker for first timers.

The good news is that the poor installer is a known problem and will eventually be replaced with something more intuitive. That’s when most people should adopt Ubuntu Linux. (But if you have a spare computer, try it out on that. The project is well funded and you can order disks free of charge.)

But say you go for it. It detects hardware very well. You need to know what extra software you want to add. A look at the Ubuntu support site will train you on the Synaptic Package Manager. With it you can get Audacity (for sound editing), GnomeSword2 Bible Guide, and Scribus (for desktop publishing). Everything else — media players, an office suite, games, image manipulation software, a browser (Firefox) and a mail client, and the usual goodies are already included.

So it looks good; if you can wait a few months, it’ll be better.

That was cursory I know; what more do y’all need to know?

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. How does the Ubuntu installer compare to Mandrake? I felt like Mandrake was not that different from installing XP from scratch, but then again, how often do any normal users do that? Disk Druid is only slightly weirder than using Disk Utility to format your drive to install Mac OS X for the first time.

  2. How does the Ubuntu installer compare to Mandrake?

    Not well. I mean it is good enough if you want to zap your whole drive and trust the defaults, but unless you’ve got some experience (and a free machine) this isn’t a good option for most newbies.

    That said for those still with me, one it was installed, it was a breeze. I mentioned Ubuntu has cute names for its releases. The free disk I got was for the perfectly useful, but not awe-inspiring Warty Warthog. That it, once the basic system installed from my CD-ROM, it took the open network connections — we have DSL — to grab the rest of the software from a set of “warty” repositories. Well, when I upgraded to “hoary” repositories I didn’t have to reinstall the whole thing, but just let all the constituent bits of software update — it took about 45 minutes with a DSL line — and blam! Like a new computer.

  3. Does the Ubuntu installer include a live partition resizing tool (like Partition Magic for Windows) that will let you strink your NTFS volume and then format a new reiser-fs or ext-2/3 volume and swap partition? Does it have something like captive-ntfs that lets dual-booters access their Windows NTFS volume? Those were my main with Knoppix. Switching from livecd to a hd install was a pain even if you understand partitions pretty well and booting from a livecd it was impossible to access most of my data easily because it was on an XP NTFS volume. Also it did not like the funky soundcard on my HP Pavillion.

    Lately I have been wanting to try some of the media oriented distros like dynebolic, Planet CCRMA, or Agnula. Alas, I don’t get to use linux much at work and don’t use the computer for much other than blogging at home.

    Geeking out about GNU/linux is much more fun than finishing my OT exegesis paper on the prose and poem texts about Deborah, Jael, Barak and Sisera.

  4. You’ve gone right past me, since the only successful parition I’ve ever done was with Mandrake. Looking back, all I can say is that Ubuntu’s partioning was about as difficult as plunging a tentpeg though someone’s head. (The passage you mention was a pet favorite at my seminary.) But if you worked with Knoppix, Ubuntu might really be a good choice since through the grapevine it seems that it is what some Knoppix people are now choosing. I don’t know anything about the other distros — plus I’d rather use one with strong community support: a reason I left Mepis for Ubuntu.

  5. Thanks for the update, Scott. Think I’ll wait a few months! :-)

    What would you say is the easiest version to install? Mandrake? (I have no experience partitioning whatsoever.)

  6. Yeah, Mandrake (nor Mandriva) was the easiest to install, but Ubuntu is the easiest to add new software.

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